Twin Cities JCCs Launch Collaborative Arts & Culture Season

For decades – or more – the Jewish Community Centers of St. Paul and Minneapolis have run their own programming on their own sides of the river. The St. Paul JCC runs its programming on the East Side of the river, while the Sabes JCC runs its programming on the West Side.

But the movement to bring the two communities together is taking off and this fall’s Jewish Arts & Culture Season is a perfect example.

The river is no longer a barrier,” said Soni Cohen, Assistant Executive Director of the Sabes JCC.

Cohen and Penny Schumacher, St. Paul JCC Chief Advancement Officer said that the two centers have taken the lead on this type of cross-river collaboration. The effort is dedicated to engaging the community in the exploration of Jewish identity and culture through film, performance, theater, visual arts, literature and Jewish learning. Together, the JCCs are working to promote and enrich Jewish life and values for the entire Twin Cities community.

“We’re hearing so much positivity from the community,” Schumacher said. “We’re not talking; we’re doing. This is such a great opportunity to keep the buzz going.”

The collaborative effort starts at the top, with the centers’ Executive Directors: Joshua Wert in Minneapolis, and Michael Waldman in St. Paul.

“One of the first questions we ask ourselves when planning a program is: ‘Who can we collaborate with?'” Cohen said. “And, when it comes to cultural arts, St. Paul is truly our partner. “

The first two visual arts events are underway. In St. Paul at the JCC Gallery Walk is “Promised Land: Photos by Chanan Getraide,” which runs until Oct. 31. Getraide, an internationally-renown photographer, captures the essence of Israel in a series of 18, large-scale photographs. His incredible work captures the immediacy of nature and shows many sides of Israel: parched earth, rushing rivers, high technology, blossoming crops, and the embrace of the sea.

In Minneapolis, the shared walls of the Sabes JCC have “Visions of Israel,” photographs taken by local artists and art enthusiasts on an arts trip to Israel this past March. The photos, which will be on display until Oct. 28, include Purim in Israel, artist studio visits, dessert workshops, a visit to the Megemeria showroom, and more.

At the Sabes JCC Tychman Shapiro Gallery there is an exhibit on the Megemeria School of Jewelry & Art, situated adjacent to the Yvel Design Center in Motza. Megemeria is a one-of-a-kind school that trains Ethiopian immigrants to Israel, many of whom lack formal education and experience, to become skilled goldsmiths and stone setters. Megemeria was founded by Orna and Isaac Levy and embodies the couple’s belief that equality and success for the Ethiopian community will come through opportunities in the job market. This exhibit is collaboration with the Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, another example of deep and ongoing partnership. The exhibit tells Megemeria’s story through moving photographs and the unique jewelry line.

Continuing through December is the Twin Cities Jewish Book Series, which will have events at both buildings. The next event is Steven Simon speaking on his book, “Our Separate Ways: The Struggle for the Future of the US-Israel Alliance,” at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 at the St. Paul JCC. Simon, a diplomat, policymaker and writer, was the senior director for Middle Eastern and North African Affairs at the White House. Simon will speak on issues addressed in his new book, including the powerful demographic, cultural, and strategic currents that are driving the US and Israel apart.

Whether your interest is visual arts, performing arts or the written word, the collaborative efforts of the Twin Cities’ two JCCs are offering the entire community plenty to look forward to this fall. Check out the JCCs first-ever combined Jewish Arts & Culture mailer for details:

Registration and tickets are available at and